Had it not been for Adrien Brody’s recent Oscar win,
this film might never have seen the light of day. Thankfully,
an impassioned four minute speech and a few prize photo ops
were enough to guarantee the theatrical release of this rough,
but memorable gem.
Jack (Brody) is a hustler in every sense of the word, equipped
with a snakeskin leather jacket, effortless swagger, and carefully
disheveled hair. He’s a Rat Pack reject turned small-time
gangster who makes his living ripping off foreign business
men with his partner Charlie (Seda). Yet, underneath
his tough guy exterior, Jack is a sensitive soul who spends
his spare time collecting rare books and writing pulp fiction
When Jack meets Claire (Ayanna), a naïve Ivy League
undergrad, there is an instant attraction. He’s drawn to her
wide-eyed innocence, and she’s intrigued by his other-worldly
confidence and dangerous lifestyle. Claire immediately becomes
infatuated with Jack, desperate to win his love at all costs.
When he rejects her, Claire embarks on a painfully self-destructive
path that immerses her further and further into Jack’s seedy
At times, the storyline leaves something to be desired.
The initial romance between Jack and Claire is underdeveloped,
and both characters undergo drastic transformations that strain
credibility. Claire’s fall from innocence, though powerful
and effective, happens a little too quickly and is a little
too extreme to be wholly believable. Despite these inconsistencies,
the film remains intriguing and unpredictable throughout and
manages to infuse enough humor in the right places to offset
the intense drama.
The true backbone of Love the Hard Way lies in the
pitch-perfect performances of its actors. As Jack, Brody deftly
turns a character who could easily have been clichéd and tiresome
into a charismatic but still sympathetic leading man. His
intricate performance makes it easy to understand why Claire
keeps running into Jack’s arms time and time again when she
should be running away. Ayanna is equally impressive, skillfully
playing Claire with subtlety and a quiet intensity. Seda and
Grier round out the superb cast, making the best of
their small roles as Jack’s loyal friend and a tough New York
City vice cop, respectively.
Love the Hard Way more than makes up for its shortcomings
with brilliant performances and an unpredictable take on the
tragic love story. If you’re an Adrien Brody fan, this film
is definitely worth a full-price ticket. If not, I’d at least
spring for a matinee.